A chemist is a person who is well trained in the field of chemistry and thus opts to apply his / her knowledge of chemistry to his / her profession. The profession can be expanded to experimentation and research apart from the stereotypical professions of teaching and pharmacy related work.

The main aim of the chemists lies in understanding to the chemical reactions and then explaining the mechanisms behind them.

On the other hand, a chemical engineer belongs to a profession that is a branch or subfield of both engineering and chemistry. The main job of a chemical engineer is to work in the chemical industry for the conversion of the basic raw material of different chemicals into a variety of products.

Moreover, by utilization of his / her knowledge in which a chemical engineer is trained, the duties also include dealing with the plants and operating systems/equipment for the basic purposes already mentioned in the last line. In the advanced scenario, chemical engineers are also actively engaged in the research activities working for various developments.

While a chemist belongs to the most basic of the sciences i.e., chemistry and the job opportunities are also as such, the job of a chemical engineer is more oriented around technology in the field of chemistry and the advancement of the technology. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how the two fields and their professional personnel differ.

Learning Objectives of the Two Fields

Chemistry is quite a comprehensive type of discipline which will engage the students from gaining a complete conceptual and bookish knowledge with a combination of extensive lab and research work.

The purpose lies in the preparation of the chemists not only for making them experts in their rather sensitive nature of job as chemists but also to prepare them to be the future scientists and chemistry explorers too.

In view of this, the subjects focused on the bachelor’s programs of chemists are general chemistry, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, Applied Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Mathematics, just to name the major of them.

Quite contrary to the bachelor’s coursework for a chemistry degree, students wishing to pursue a career in the field of chemical engineering have to follow the multidisciplinary approach embedded in the field of chemical engineering itself. As it is an amalgam of the two fields – i.e., chemistry and engineering, the students following a career aim in this field are trained accordingly.

For instance, the core subjects in the syllabus of chemical engineering orient about engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, fluid dynamics, and equipment design.

However, both the subject produce professional well equipped with the relevant skills in the respective fields.

Best places to study

While planning to pursue a carrier in either of the field, it is important for the students to look and choose the best places to study in the relevant field. Let’s have a look at the top universities in accordance with the fields i.e., chemistry v/s chemical engineering. The following table gives a good overview for this as well as their comparison (according to the ranking of the universities as per QS system).

Chemistry (Top Universities)QS Ranking for Chemistry 2019Chemical engineering (Top Universities)QS Ranking for Chemical Engineering 2019
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)   1Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)1

University of California, Berkeley (UCB)  
2Stanford University2
Harvard University  3University of California, Berkeley (UCB)  3
University of Cambridge3University of Cambridge  3
  Stanford University5ETH-Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology  5


There are some basic and common duties being performed by the professionals of both the fields. These include an active involvement in plan designing and development as related to their respective fields of either the chemical/product or systems/equipment manufacturing and advancement. Let us take an in detail view of the responsibilities carried out by chemists and chemical engineers.


The entry-level positions of chemists require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. If the entry-level job is also associated with research-oriented responsibilities, then one must have a strong grasp on mathematical skills as most of the research jobs require frequent data analysis making mathematics skills an utmost necessity.

The primary job responsibilities are indoor work related to designing experiments, their execution within labs and data analysis for the development of new chemical compounds or products. Besides the research may also be used for basic science research purposed so as to make the science of chemistry more and more understandable.

Furthermore, it is also the responsibility of the chemist to make proper documentation about his / her work such as writing reports of the experiments carried out and in rather advanced scenarios writing research papers for publishing the work done. Also, it is the responsibility of the chemist to oversee and make sure the lab protocols are being followed properly.

Chemical engineers

The professionals of chemical engineering are typically involved in manufacturing processes. The most common of these processes are the manufacture of food, drugs, fuels, etc. at a larger scale. Just like the chemist, the entry-level jobs for chemical engineers also required a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

Apart from their typical work in the manufacturing industry, chemical engineering is also a field of active research too. And while in research, the basic purpose of a chemical engineer is to explore the ways in which a particular manufacturing process can be improved.

Afterward, these improvements are then put into the applied field of chemical engineering research such as an improved production of drugs and chemicals that can be achieved at a larger scale.

Therefore, some of the important job responsibilities of chemical engineers can be summarized as working with the existing manufacturing processes, researching for the betterments in the existing designs of equipment, designing new types of manufacturing equipment, providing and developing safety protocols according to the equipment, preparing budgets, and documentation of all kinds which might be applicable to a particular scenario.

Relation between the Two Professions

The two professions, and also the two fields are closely related to one another and also work in close association with one another thereby complementing the mission of designing a product till it large scale production.

Let us try to understand this with an example. A chemist works in a research lab and produces a new formula for a sanitizer in accordance with all the health and safety measures.

Now that the sanitizer is made, it might be possible to make its few bottles in a lab. But, for its production in bulk quantity and for it to be available in the market, a chemical engineer would be required to not only suggest and provide equipment for its large scale production but also to work for it.


Abeedha is PhD. Scholar in Biosciences. She has published 3 journals and working on more. She loves to dig in field.

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